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Disney’s ‘Pan’ peters out

Sequel shelved; animators laid off

It’s been more than 45 years since the Walt Disney Co. released its classic animated pic “Peter Pan,” and now it looks like it may be a few more years for a sequel.

The studio, always wary of imitators producing knock-offs of its toons in development, is keeping quiet about the possible “Peter Pan” sequel, so details are scarce. But it’s clear Disney has been developing a new full-length version of the animated pic, and some months back the studio hired animators for preliminary work in both Vancouver and Toronto.

Apparently, the project still needs work, because an undisclosed number of animators were laid off this week, production has stopped, and Disney has thrown the project back into development.

What it does not indicate, according to Disney, is that this is part of any belt-tightening at the Mouse House.

“The layoffs of layout artists and background painters happened because of one particular project going back into development,” Disney rep Laurel Whitcomb told Daily Variety. “This is a typical occurrence in animation. It’s not massive layoffs. Our studio in Canada continues to work on other projects.”

Disney’s decision to further develop “Peter Pan” is typical of the long process of developing animated projects, at any studio.

And animated projects can benefit from a rethink, even after production has begun. The studio’s upcoming sequel to “Toy Story” was initially earmarked for straight-to-video, but after Pixar creative chief John Lasseter became involved in the project, it became apparent to Disney that it was worthy of a theatrical release. It’s now the centerpiece of Disney’s holiday plans.

Whitcomb said that the studio is still uncertain whether the “Peter Pan” sequel will be released theatrically or as a video.

(Don Townson in Vancouver contributed to this report.)